“Resilient After the Storm” at Pine Ridge Golf Course

I was lucky I wasn’t in Roundup last week. Last Thursday a hailstorm of epic proportions hit the central Montana town doing millions of dollars in damage to vehicles, homes, and even the golf course.

The storm was all anyone could talk about in Grand Bar where I grabbed lunch. People were answering calls from insurance companies, asking about adjusters and when they would see them next, and telling stories of how big of hailstones they found in their yards after the storm.

Driving through Roundup on my way to Pine Ridge Golf Course, I wasn’t sure what shape the golf course would be in after suffering such a beating last Thursday. Cars had broken windows and windshields, deep pock marks could be seen on the hoods and fenders of every car in town, and broken windows sat in the panes of nearly every home. However, the course was in great shape considering what I was expecting.

As my playing partner, Tannar Cummings, who is originally from Belt but teaches and coaches in Roundup, made our way down the fairways I was amazed at the shape the greens were in. Talking with the course owner later in the day, I was told the grounds crew had recently punched and sanded the greens in hopes of saving them. It worked.

The opening hole at Pine Ridge is a slight dogleg left with out-of-bounds left and trees down past the landing area of the fairway on right. An elevated green sits with on top of a hill that is slightly protected by a lone tree that juts out some thirty yards short of the green from the right hand rough.

The 4th hole is a dogleg right par 5 that plays 430-yards and has out-of-bounds on the left. The rolling hill is a prime target for your drive and if the tee shot is hit well enough a mid-iron into the elevated green can set up a tremendous opportunity for an eagle or birdie.

The most interesting hole on the course at Pine Ridge is the 9th. This par 4 plays about 340-yards but has a hazard running down the left side of the fairway that cuts across about 100-yards in front of the green. A blind tee shot, this fairway suits a slight draw and will give golfers a mid-iron in to a slightly elevated green that can be seen from the clubhouse deck.

What the crew at Roundup’s Pine Ridge Golf Course did in the last week is nothing short of amazing. If you hadn’t been told that a hailstorm had blown through town last Thursday, you would never have known by the shape the course was in.

Roundup is resilient just like the greens at Pine Ridge Golf Course. It says a lot about a community and a golf course to take a couple of hard blows like a doozy of a hailstorm will dish out and you keep on rolling along.

It says a lot to be picking up lemon sized hailstones in the your yard one day and be playing golf so shortly after.

“It’s the Place to Make an Ace” at Pine Meadows Golf Course

Walking in the shade of the pine trees and up the rolling hills of Pine Meadows Golf Course in Lewistown, Montana I had a thought, “This wouldn’t be a bad place to make my first hole-in-one.”

Standing on the sixth tee of Pine Meadows on a perfect afternoon with just a slight breeze at our backs, Pine Meadows Course Manager Keithon Walter even started talking about it.

“I’ve always wanted to get my first hole-in-one on this hole,” said Keithon. “It’s just perfect.”

The 153-yard par 3 sixth is pretty much perfect and I thought my shot on the hole was as well, until it didn’t clear the tall pine tree protecting the right-hand side of the green.

“I wonder how many holes-in-one that tree has ruined over the years” Keithon joked.

The sixth works its way from an elevated tee box across a small canyon bathed in the shadows of the pine trees for which Pine Meadows is named. An undulating green on the sixth funnels tee shots from the left and back of the green toward the pin located right behind the world’s most infuriating evergreen.

That evergreen didn’t ruin Dale Huffine’s tee shot a few groups ahead of us on Monday afternoon as he recorded his first ever ace on the par 3 sixth and was celebrating in the Elks Bar when we moseyed our way into the clubhouse. Graciously accepting a free drink Keithon and I congratulated Dale on his monumental feat and had to laugh.

“No wonder mine didn’t go in,” I remarked.

I found out while drinking my Bent Nail IPA compliments of Dale Huffine, that the sixth at Pine Meadows has surrendered its fair share of aces including two in the same day a few years back.

It was a couple of years ago that Jim “JR” Rutherford and his son Tyler were playing in the Pine Meadows Club Championship when they both had holes-in-one on number six.

JR recalled, “Mine was a terrible swing, a really ugly worm-burner that just kept going towards the green. But the tree blocked it out, so I didn’t get to see it go in. Tyler’s on the other hand, he actually hit a really nice golf shot and it ended up going in.”

As we swapped golf stories and those of us without a hole-in-one sat back dreamt of the day we might be lucky enough to get one, the thought became clear to me, “I’ve got to play the sixth at Pine Meadows more often.”

Pine Meadows is a fantastic nine-hole golf course I would put at the top of any list to play in Montana. With a variety of holes that will challenge your golf game and a majestic beauty that is hard to parallel, this unique course that was built in 1948 is a gem to say the least.

The fifth hole at Pine Meadows is a dogleg right par 4 from which you tee off in the shade of the evergreens from an elevated tee box with a very distinctive aiming point called the Huffine tree. Sitting about 150 yards out on the 384-yard hole is an evergreen the same Dale Huffine who hit a hole-in-one the day I was playing the course, planted some 50 years ago. The shot of choice on the fifth is a high fade and a tee shot just past the Huffine tree will leave you with a short wedge into a green that dramatically slopes from back-to-front.

The greens at Pine Meadows Golf Course were simply remarkable. Soft, receptive, undulating, and dangerous if you were located above the hole. They rolled as true as any greens I’ve played on this trip so far.

Pine Meadows Golf Course is a truly remarkable nine-hole golf course with tremendous hospitality and gorgeous views of the many mountain ranges surrounding Lewistown.

I just wish I could have been lucky enough to make my first hole-in-one at Pine Meadows, because I know some folks at the Elks Bar who I owe a drink to.

 

A tremendous thanks to the Keithon Walter and the staff at Pine Meadows Golf Course in Lewistown for an awesome afternoon of golf and hospitality. I’ll definitely be back.

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“Hunting for My Tee Shots” at Judith Shadows

Just outside Lewistown, Montana sits an 18-hole course in its early adolescence called Judith Shadows Golf Course.

With tall fescue roughs and undulating greens, Judith Shadows can bear its teeth if you aren’t hitting the ball in the right spots. A wayward tee shot or two and you will be hunting for your golf ball with little hope of finding it in British Open type fescue.

My playing partner and golf ball hunting partner for yesterday morning’s round just happened to have the course record at Judith Shadows and after the first few holes I could see why. Lewistown’s Keithon Walters found fairway after fairway during our trip around the links at Judith Shadows, while I did not.

One of the most gorgeous views of my trip so far was on the par 4 fourth hole at Judith Shadows. A 390-yard hole requiring the golfer to lay up with a long iron or hybrid before taking aim at a difficult to hold island green. The fourth hole is not only spectacularly beautiful with Western Meadowlarks landing on the cattails surrounding the island but also the most difficult hole on the golf course.

Another hole requiring a precise tee shot is the par 3 13th hole that plays 160 at it’s longest. With water short and to the right of the green the only miss is to the left and long on this dangerously short hole. As we walked around the water and towards the hole I was again stunned by the beauty of this golf course and scenic Lewistown area.

In this area, Jeff and Maria Whitcraft decided to build a golf course twenty years ago that features genuine Montana hazards like untreated rough and natural water features that complement the backdrop of the region.

The finishing hole at Judith Shadows is an uphill par 5 that requires the tee shot to carry over a small creek running across the fairway some 250-yards from the tee box. The second shot presents the opportunity to finish the round with a birdie or better if your long iron can be precise and find the small green that sits underneath the eye of the Judith Shadows Golf Course clubhouse.

My trip around the 18-hole Judith Shadows Golf Course in Lewistown, Montana was an enjoyable one despite the golf balls claimed by the long fescue. One thing the round at Judith Shadows confirmed was that I will never be a betting favorite in the British Open.

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“The Birthplace of Montana” at Signal Point Golf Club

In territorial Montana, Fort Benton was the region’s last trading post along the mighty Missouri River. Steamboats would power their way against the current from St. Louis to bring supplies and people to the West. It was where cowboys and cavalries would walk the same streets and where supplies heading for the mining camps in Helena and Virginia City would be loaded on stagecoaches for the rest of their journey.

Fort Benton is the birthplace of Montana.

High above this birthplace sits Signal Point Golf Club, a beautiful nine-hole golf course with an even more spectacular view of the one-time frontier town. Named for the landmark directly adjacent to the golf course where lookouts could first spot the next steamboat due for Fort Benton. Signal Point Golf Club was built in 1967, one-hundred years after the town’s post office was established.

My Sunday morning foursome at Signal Point read like a bad joke. I was playing golf with a doctor, a bar owner, and an engineer. Scott Meissner, Thad Stinson, his daughter Josie Stinson, and myself were the first to tee off at Signal Point on a sunny windless day high above Fort Benton.

With a foursome that sounded like the lead in of a bad joke there were plenty of laughs to be had that morning. I couldn’t keep track of number of times I doubled over in laughter from one of Scott or Thad’s one-liners during the round.

The first hole at Signal Point is a straightforward 400-yard par 4 with trees lining both sides of the fairway and an elevated green protected by a pair of large bunkers on the right and left.

The greens at Signal Point Golf Club are consistently some of the best in the state. Elevated, undulating, and hard to hold without a wedge in your hand the greens are always remarkable in Fort Benton.

The fourth hole is the first par 3 you run across at Signal Point, at 152-yards long with a crystal clear blue pond to your right and a pair of bunkers in front of the green. Your tee shot has to get up quickly to clear the pine tree on the edge of the pond that blocks out the front of the green from your vision.

The closing hole at Signal Point is the dogleg left par 5 ninth that offers spectacular views of the whole Missouri River valley and the Little Belt Mountains on the horizon. A tee shot too far left will leave you blocked out by trees and a tee shot too far right leaves you an impossibly long second shot. The tiered green on the ninth sits in the shade of the cottonwoods with bunkers in the front left and front right.

The historic town of Fort Benton is home to not just any nine-hole golf course, it’s home to Signal Point Golf Club. It is home to hundreds of cottonwoods, perfect greens, and views that transport you back to territorial Montana.

When a steamboat would fight the current of the mighty Missouri River to get to Fort Benton, the birthplace of Montana.

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